Monday, June 18, 2018

Father’s Day, 2018

Panorama of the Bitterroot Mountains
Taken approximately 1,000 feet above Lookout Pass
Montana/Idaho State Line
June 17th, 2018

Yesterday, in honor of Father's Day (or just to get out of the house), Kevin and I took a 200-mile drive around western Montana and northern Idaho. I say it was in honor of Father's Day because the standing joke in our family was that my father would drive to Powell (Wyoming) by way of Cody (Wyoming). For those of you who don't know this region, you can easily drive a pretty straight line from Billings, Montana to Powell, Wyoming, but Father would head west to Livingston, Montana, then south through Yellowstone Park, and finally east to Cody, eventually ending up in Powell. This turned an 88-mile drive into one covering 326 miles and taking at least 7 hours.

 The first of many tunnels
(Northern Pacific Railroad Grade)
Near Lookout Pass, Mineral County, Montana
June 17th, 2018

Honaker Creek
Mineral County, Montana
June 17th, 2018

A Honaker Creek Tributary
Near Bullion Pass, Mineral County, Montana
June 17th, 2018

 We started out yesterday driving to Thompson Falls, then climbed up Clarks Peak to check on Kevin's ham repeater station, then on across the mountains to DeBorgia, Montana where we caught the Interstate to head toward Lookout Pass on the Montana/Idaho border to check on some other radio transmission sites and where I picked up another geocache (with Kevin's help). While there, I noticed a road I didn't know that headed almost due south from I-90 to the Idaho line from a place noted on the map as "Tammany." I'm not sure what Tammany is or was, but it has no physical presence today and certainly no off-ramp from I-90. We drove the back way (part old US 10 and part old Northern Pacific right of way) to just east of the first rest area in Montana, and then back west to a point where the road made a 90 degree turn south and headed up the mountains along Honaker Creek. Again, for those who don't know this area, there is a locally well-known route across the mountains going from Taft (I-90 exit 5) up to the East Portal of the Hiawatha Trail, then over St. Paul Pass into Idaho, but the Honaker Creek road is roughly half-way between Taft and Lookout Pass. The Montana side was beautiful, and I got lots of photos of Honaker Creek and its tributaries. Then we came across something absolutely surreal. You all know those huge metal high-tension power "poles" that look like a giant metal man? Imagine coming up on one of those at the top, instead of seeing it from ground level. The thing is incredibly large at the "shoulders," and that's what you see as you approach the Idaho line on Honacker Creek Road. Of course, I had to take a picture, as well as another picture of the next "pole" (I don't know what else to call them) with swirling gray clouds behind it. It looked like a scene from a terrifying 1950s sci-fi movie. The aliens have landed and they're not happy.

 Man, those things are big when they're at eye level
Near Bullion Pass, Mineral County, Montana
June 17th, 2018
(Note the very dirty windshield)

Run, Run For Your Life!
Near Bullion Pass, Mineral County, Montana
June 17th, 2018

We crossed into Idaho and the road deteriorated drastically. On the Idaho side, the road is called the Bullion Creek Road, or Forest Road 507. We drove slowly down the mountain (maybe 5 mph), dodging rocks and in two places fording streams that had overflowed their banks and were in the process of washing away the road. By this time, the geocaching app on my cell phone had given up, showing us only a gray square where we should see roads--no cell service, don't ya know--and my Garmin Montana 650t was showing us lots of contour lines, but I had no sense of scale so I couldn't tell Kevin how much more of this torture we were due for.  25 miles isn't very far in today's world--but when you're driving at 5 miles per hour....
Southern End of Bullion Creek Road
Shoshone County, Idaho
June 17th, 2018

Eventually we came to a Yield sign nailed to the side of a tall pine (another photo op), and signs pointing north to Wallace, Idaho (17 miles) or south to Avery (11 miles). We turned south and soon found ourselves at a four-way junction with no direction signs that were at all helpful. (Yes, there were signs. No, none of them mentioned Avery at all.) Continuing on toward Pearson, the western terminus of the Hiawatha Trail, we soon found ourselves driving on the Milwaukee railbed for the ten miles from Pearson to Avery with only this "comforting" sign to guide us. "One lane road with passing points next 10 miles." What the sign didn't warn us was that the one lane road passed through several railroad tunnels, some of which were so long that you couldn’t see one end from the beginning. With no light at the end of the tunnel, it was quite possible to get caught inside a tunnel facing oncoming traffic and one or the other of you would have to back up. Fortunately, that did not happen. Not only did we drive through tunnels, but also crossed a couple of railroad trestles, including one across the North Fork of the St. Joe River. I will say this, as we were on a railroad bed, the grade was very gradual, and Idaho (or Shoshone County) has done an admirable job of keeping the road up. After almost 10 miles, we went around a bend and saw a garbage dump right on the side of the road. Strikingly ugly in an otherwise pristine landscape. Around the next bend we found Avery.

Back in the day, Avery was a bustling railroad town, the point where the Milwaukee switched from electric power used through the Rocky Mountains to coal or later diesel for the trek west toward Seattle, with a round house and all the accompanying shops.  Today, Avery is a wide spot on Forest Highway 50 populated mostly by vacationing families living in travel trailers or rental units.  The Avery Post Office is located in the old Milwaukee Depot and there is a gift shop and a convenience store that serves “fast food,” including deli sandwiches, hot dogs, burgers and even fish and chips if you’re brave enough.  I wasn’t, so we stuck to burgers (cheese burger for me) and fries.  The burgers were ok—better than a lot I’ve had, but the fries were terrific.  If you find yourself in Avery, you gotta try Scheffy’s.  Seriously, it’s the only place in town to eat.  The ONLY place in town.

The Kyle Tunnel (#33), Milwaukee Railroad Bed
Shoshone County, Idaho
June 17th, 2018

Forest Highway 50 is one of those roads to nowhere that makes no sense in today’s cost-conscious world.  Its western terminus is at Idaho Highway 3 just outside St. Maries in Benewah County, and its eastern terminus is the Montana state line 16 miles south of St. Regis.  In its 89-mile length, it passes through Calder (unincorporated) and Avery (also unincorporated) and nothing else.  Yet, for some unknown (to me) reason, it is a beautifully paved road, well maintained, that follows the St. Joe River and is now known as the St. Joe River Scenic Byway.    For my money, it’s one of the most beautiful drives in our part of the country and I highly recommend it.  This was Kevin’s first time on the road and he was suitably impressed.  Of course, when you reach the state line, the pavement ends and you have a dirt road most of the rest of the way to St. Regis.  I will say this, the dirt road was easily two lanes wide and very smooth.  The best dirt road we had today by a long shot.  By the time we hit the state line, it was getting late, and I took no more photos nor did we stop to find more geocaches as we were both ready to get home.  All in all a lovely day out in the beautiful Pacific Northwest.
The Saint Joe River
Shoshone County, Idaho
June 17th, 2018

Friday, March 2, 2018

A Dream

Looking at the clock when I awoke, I saw the numbers 4:5, but not the third number.  I'm guessing it was a 7 or an 8 because when I actually sat up the clock showed 5:01.  I had just come out of a dream that really spoke to me, and I hope will speak to you as well, so I'm recounting it here while I still remember it.

The dream began with a call from a close friend who was facing the task of cleaning up the kitchen after a gallery show somewhere.  I'm not sure if she was in an art museum or a sales gallery that had hosted an First Friday type event, but that wasn't important.  What was important is that the kitchen needed cleaning, specifically the oven where something had run over and burnt onto the floor of the unit. My friend, Cathy, was quite upset, and I did what I could to calm her, including taking apart the oven and letting the pieces soak overnight.  Everything would look better in the morning.

The next morning a group gathered at Cathy's house, men and women of roughly the same age, 25-30, some parents, some not.  We were standing around her kitchen counter and talking about the task at hand.  Somehow, in the manner of dreams, we no longer seemed to be as concerned with the cleaning of the kitchen and talk turned to introducing children to art.  Cathy had a medium sized screen with various images and e-books, and was going through them as she talked.  She opened one image, and quickly closed it back down.  I was standing across the counter from her, and noticed only the image of a Devil's Tower shaped formation, or possibly it was something from southern Utah or eastern Arizona--you know the type of red rock formation I'm talking about.

Watch for (Red) Rocks
Sedona, Arizona
Dec. 3rd, 2010

The picture was a cover photo of a book and there was text as well of which all I could read was the title, The West.   As I said above, Cathy had no sooner opened the image on the screen than she set it down.  I spoke up.  As we were talking about introducing children to art, and their reactions to that, I felt it important to point out that we needed to make sure that children understand that our words might not mean the same thing in different contexts.  As an example, I chose to talk about the meaning of "The West."  Mind you, I have no children, have never had children, and was very clear about that.  But inside my 25 year old head (and in my head and heart, I am 25--I have no idea who that 68 year old man is who looks back at me from the mirror), I could remember being a little boy, growing up in Montana.  And to this little boy, I pointed out, "The West" meant cowboys and indians.  What will a child think if we talk about the West, and instead of showing him action, we show him rocks?  The first example that came to my mind was a photo I took near Perma, Montana that I named "Iconic Montana."  It is a scene of a group of horses caught running across a hillside on the Flathead Indian Reservation.   It seemed to me, that as a young boy, this image would much more likely jump to the fore as an image of "The West."

Iconic Montana
Perma, Montana
April 15th, 2013

No cowboys or indians, but how can you have either without horses?  But not more than a couple miles away I had taken another picture that surely could be considered "iconic Montana."  This picture, captured just east of mile marker 102 on Montana Highway 200 shows the Flathead River in the foreground and the Mission Mountains, covered in snow in the back.  I grew up knowing that one of the nicknames for Montana is "The Land of Shining Mountains," and even before I knew that "Montana" is the Spanish word for mountain, I knew that the native people had used "shining mountains" to describe my homeland.  Still, it seemed to me that this image would appeal to adults more than to children.

The Flathead at Mile 102
Perma, Montana
April 22nd, 2017

Another image came to mind as we discussed the topic, one that I had captured roughly fifteen miles east of the first two.  This image, which I have named "Montana Amish," was taken at the Amish owned Mission General Store at St. Ignatius, Montana.  And while most people probably don't think of the Amish as typically Montana, a horse and buggy tied to a hitching rail, certainly conjures up life from the 1800s, doesn't it?  Couldn't this image as well signify "The West"?

Montana Amish
St. Ignatius, Montana
March 11th, 2014

As I thought about the three images, I suggested that, at least for a boy, the scene with the horses would probably come first, the buggy second, and the mountains third in any discussion of how do we envision "The West."  My guess is that a young girl would probably put things in the same order, while an adult might well choose the mountain image first.    I'm open to anyone trying to change my mind on that.

Just before I woke up, I thought of a fourth image (I'm ignoring Sedona for now).  One that I think would capture a young boy's imagination even more than the running horses.  Definitely a scene from "The West," this photograph screams, to me at least, "look where we are now!"  I took this photograph during the Homesteaders' Day parade in the small town of Hot Springs, Montana, in 2013. but I've seen the same parade entry in other years.  

The Modern Indian
Hot Springs, Montana
June 9th, 2013

Again, ignoring the original scene from Sedona, Arizona, the rest of the pictures were all taken within a 25 mile radius, all in Montana, all on the Flathead Indian Reservation, and, to my mind at least, all signify "The West."  And at that point, I awoke.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Alabama: The Heart of Dixie

Welcome Sign, Interstate 59, Georgia/Alabama Line
September 2nd, 2012

To date, I’ve been to Alabama twice.  First time was back in 1999, when I attended a three-day conference in Birmingham with New Image, International.  The Conference was held at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex, an easy walk from our hotel which was located right in the heart of the city, and only a few blocks from the Amtrak station where I arrived on the Southern Crescent from New Orleans.  It was an easy walk until the police closed off the street that connected hotel and convention center, which they did because the Ku Klux Klan was having a major demonstration half-way between the two venues in “honor” of the Martin Luther King holiday.  1999 was seven years before I got a decent digital camera, and while I know I have photographs from that trip, at present I’m having trouble locating either the prints or the negatives to scan.  Oh well, you’ll just have to imagine what that trip was like from my words.

Inside our Cabin at Bluff Creek Falls
Steele, Alabama
September 3rd, 2012

Riding the Southern Crescent, we pulled out of New Orleans, crossed into Mississippi shortly thereafter, and crossed that state in a diagonal line from Southwest to Northeast, a trip I’ll discuss in my post about Mississippi.  The Crescent runs between New York City and New Orleans, and the Amtrak guide assumes that you will be heading south and gives all the miles as distance from New York’s Penn Station, the busiest rail station in the country.  The total travel distance is 1,377 miles, and you cross the Alabama/Mississippi state line at mile 1,155, or 222 miles from N’Awlins.  Once you cross into Alabama, the rail line runs roughly parallel to and south of Interstate 20.  You pass through the towns of Livingston and Eutaw, cross the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway, and stop in Tuscaloosa, home of the Crimson Tide and all things University of Alabama.  After several hours and 354 miles, you arrive in Birmingham, Alabama’s largest city located toward the southern end of the Appalachian Mountains, and therefore quite hilly.   I have to admit that I have no memory of the Alabama portion of the trip, at least not until I stepped off the train at the Birmingham Station, which struck me as old, pretty small for a big city train station, and located in a not very interesting neighborhood.  For those who don’t know the city, as well as being the largest in Alabama, it is the 103rd largest city in the U.S., with a 2010 Census count of 212,237, down from 242,840 in 2000, one year after I visited.  In fact, the population of the city has declined in every census since 1960 when the count was 340,887, the highest ever for the city.  In other words, over the past fifty years, the city has lost a third of its population, although the 2015 estimate showed a minimal increase from 2010. 

Parked Outside our Cabin at Bluff Creek Falls
Steele, Alabama
September 3rd, 2012

This decrease became apparent my first evening in town.  Despite being in the center of an apparently prosperous downtown, judging solely by the new skyscrapers that surrounded our hotel, there were no restaurants open after 5 p.m., and no retail businesses to speak of any where we looked.  Oh there were lots of empty storefronts on streets nearby, but most looked as if they had been closed for years, or even decades.  A local explained to me that downtown historically was the Negro section of town, and with increased prosperity and desegregation, the Blacks had moved to the suburbs and no one had taken their place.  It gave downtown Birmingham a distinct ghost town feel, especially after the skyscrapers emptied of their white-collar workers.  Missoula friends attending the same conference, had a rental car, so we were able to get out of downtown and see a bit of the city, albeit by night, including the section called Five Points South where we found restaurants and the hill on top of which Vulcan, the largest cast-iron statue in the world, looks over the city and moons the suburbs.  (Well at least in 1999, when I saw the statue.  At that time, Vulcan wore an apron which protected his family jewels from the heat of the forge, but his apron was open at the back, and his cheeks were quite visible should you approach him from the rear.  I understand the statue has been completely renovated since then, so I cannot say what he is showing the world today.) 

The Pool Area at Bluff Creek Falls
Steele, Alabama
September 3rd, 2012

I never saw the hooded Knights as the police diverted all traffic away from the area, but I remember the next day walking a couple of blocks from our hotel to visit a park dedicated to the Civil Rights struggle.  Unfortunately, while I know I took photographs on this trip, including several from the train and in Birmingham itself, I cannot find those images.  Nor do I have any memory of returning to the Amtrak station, boarding the train or the return trip to New Orleans.

Yes, George Wallace's wife has a street named for her
Tuscaloosa, Alabama
September 3rd, 2012

My second trip across Alabama was in September, 2012, when Kevin and I drove from Columbus, Ohio to Starkville, Mississippi, and spent a night outside of Steele, Alabama en route.  On this trip, we entered Alabama from Georgia on Interstate 59, capturing the Welcome sign shown at the head of this post.  We stopped for supper in Gadsden, then proceeded on to Steele where we stayed in a cabin at Bluff Creek Falls.  We had been driving through torrential rains as we skirted the path of Hurricane Isaac, and the grounds at Bluff Creek were drenched.  As a result, we spent no time in what looked to be a lovely pool, were the weather better, but the friendliness and hospitality of the hosts and campers were unmatched and we had a very pleasant evening there, albeit inside.

US Highway 82, Western Alabama
September 3rd, 2012

The next morning, we reloaded the Saab and headed on through Birmingham, Tuscaloosa, where Kevin had his very first Waffle House experience and got a Waffle House cap for being a “virgin,” and then on across western Alabama on U.S. 82, crossing into Mississippi just east of the town of Columbus.  All of the pictures accompanying this post are from the 2012 drive.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Wherever you go, there you are

I’ve been doing a lot of driving lately.  Drove to Butte and Bozeman then back home a couple of weeks ago.  Last week, I drove to Republic, Washington and back, then yesterday to Colfax, Washington and back.  And this morning I meditated over my morning coffee on the deck that it is surely true that it’s the journey that counts, not the destination.  My dad was a destination driver.  Every year we’d load up the car and drive to the cabin in the Bitterroot mountains west of Stevensville.  Roughly 900 miles one way, and we’d stop only for gas, quick meals (get your potty breaks at one or the other), and maybe 3 to 5 hours in a motel in Winnemucca.  Once I started driving, the motel stops were a thing of the past.  He’d often comment (like every time we drove Highway 12 up the Idaho side of Lolo Pass), “One of these days, I’m going to fish that stream” referring to the Lochsa River.  He died without ever stopping to fish the Lochsa. 

Along U.S. Highway 12
Taken 4/21/16

I used to be a destination driver,too.  Guess that’s one thing I got from my dad.  But yesterday’s journey through the Palouse opened my eyes.  You see, if you’re a destination driver, the roads through the Palouse seem endless and boring.  Up one hill, down the next, through a valley that seems more like a canyon, then rinse and repeat.  Over and over, world without end, until you finally arrive at your destination.  I’ve done that a lot in the past, driving to Moscow or Pullman for meetings or to visit friends.  Driving to Walla Walla and beyond on my way to or from a visit to Mother.  And heaven help you if you’re driving from Pullman to Connell, a distance of 98 miles along Washington Route 26 that Mapquest says will take you 1 hour and 43 minutes, but will feel like it’s taking f*o*r*e*v*e*r because there’s no change in the scenery as you cross the Palouse.  OK, let’s be honest.  There’s no change if all you’re looking at is the road.  The hills, valleys, fields and farms tend to look alike when you’re seeing them out the corner of your eye.

(The attendant at the convenience store next door suggested that the "130 year old men" said it was a transfer station, from the time the railroad passed through the valley.  Works for me.)
Rockford, Washington

Yesterday’s drive was different.  I was out specifically to see what I could find of interest in Whitman County, Washington.  Along the way I found a strange building made of brick on the south side of Rockford, Washington, a round barn with a very ornate roof on the west side of St. John.  I drove across an almost dry, stone sided canyon west of Pine City called, appropriately enough “Hole in the Ground.”  I found an abandoned church in the ghost town of Elberton, northeast of Colfax.  I saw Steptoe Butte from the north, the east, and the west, and found a chandelier hanging from the branches of a tree in front of the Latah Schoolhouse, now available for weddings and receptions, don’t ya know, in Latah, the Centennial City, Washington.

Between St. John and Cheney, Washington
(The mystery here is the number of pickups with boat trailers parked alongside the dirt road.  I didn't see any water deep enough or wide enough to accommodate the boats.)

I got a lot of good photographs too, (and more than a few duds).  But most of all, I got an appreciation for the beauty of the land, the infinitely varied landscape of farm, field, mountain, valley—even if I still think the valleys are more like canyons.  

Colfax, Washington

Oakesdale, Washington

Saturday, March 19, 2016

There is no 420 in Idaho

Mile Marker on U.S. Highway 95
Kootenai County, Idaho
Taken 3/18/16

Friday, March 18th, the sun rose in a clear blue sky and I said it was a good day for photography.  Since I finished my words and pictures for the Montana coffee table book (all that remains is putting it all together in a single volume), I’ve been wondering what to do for an encore.  I thoroughly enjoyed traveling Montana and getting to know my home state so much better, up close and personal, as it were, so I decided to continue the same, but with the neighboring state of Idaho, it being closest to home.  I’ve been working on this new project for a few months now, but earlier this week I decided to get it put together in hard form, i.e. photographic prints and printed text, because frankly I don’t trust my computer.  I do keep backing stuff up, but I don’t want to find myself in a position where all my hard work is just gone—lost in cyberspace somewhere.  Having started that project, I figured it would be a good idea to keep some sort of record as to what was done and what wasn’t, and since I’m doing a county-by-county project, what better way to graphically illustrate what’s done and what remains to do than by taking a map of Idaho with all the counties shown and color coding it.  Red would mean that I have written the text and taken the pictures for county x.  Blue would mean that I have the pictures, but have yet to write the text, and gray would mean that I have the text finished, but have yet to visit the county in person and take the pictures.  When I finished coloring the map, I noticed that northern Idaho, from the Canadian border to the southern end of the Panhandle (more or less, depending on where you figure the Panhandle meets the pan, as it were) was solid blue with two exceptions.  Boundary County, the northern most county in the state, was red.  I have taken the photos and written the text.  Idaho County, which I consider the southern end was blue with a –CH notation.   I have lots of photos I’ve taken all around Idaho County, but for some inexplicable reason, I don’t have a photo of the County Court House.  And Lemhi County (not technically in the Panhandle) was colored blue with a -1P note:  I have lots of photos of Lemhi County, but there’s one in particular I want and don’t have—at least among the photos I can find.  South of Idaho County, the map has five counties colored gray, and the rest is a mass of white.  Yes, I learned a lesson traveling to the far eastern regions of Montana before doing my homework.  For Idaho, I decided I would write the essays and then take the photos, at least for those counties I can’t easily reach in a day trip.  If I hadn’t already researched Ada County, for instance, I wouldn’t know that I want to visit in May because that’s when North America’s largest nesting group of raptors visits the wildlife sanctuary south of Boise.  See what kinds of skills you can get from getting a graduate degree from the university! 

Work done to date on my Idaho Counties Photobook
As of 3/17/16

Anyway, there is just one problem with all the above.  There was one white county in the Panhandle: Nez Perce County with its County Seat of Lewiston.  Technically speaking, anywhere in that region could be considered a day trip from here at home in Wild Horse Plains, Montana, so I loaded all my camera gear into the new Explorer and headed out.  This was the first time I had driven more than a few miles—i.e. to town and back—since my accident where I totaled the Saab, and I was both eager and a bit nervous to see if I could handle what used to be normal for me.  By the time I had the car loaded and stopped in town to fill the gas tank, it was much later in the day than I would have liked, but Idaho is in a different time zone—at least the Panhandle is—so I could always claim I was gaining an hour.  (We’ll leave crossing that same time change on the way back for later, ok?) 

From home, I drove east on MT 200 to MT 135, which the Nav system in the Explorer informed me, is called Quinn’s Canyon Road.  I’ve lived here over three years, and have lived in western Montana for over 40 and have never heard of Quinn’s Canyon Road before, but what the hey.  Southwest on 135 to St Regis, then onto I-90 to head west into Idaho and Pacific Standard Time.  I crossed Lookout Pass and the state line at 11:07 and by 10:10 my clock had registered the fact that I was no longer in the Mountain Time Zone.  I stopped in Coeur d’Alene long enough to pick up a new charger for my phone, then headed south on US 95.   US 95 is the longest highway in the state of Idaho.  It crosses into the state’s southwestern most county, Owyhee, and heads north, clinging to the state line for the most part, until it leaves Idaho and the U.S. at the Eastport border crossing, over 538 miles to the north.  Where I joined the road, there was still another 100+ miles of 95 north of me, but I was heading south and the mile markers were decreasing in size.  425, 424, 423, 422, 421, 419.9, 419.  Wait a minute?  What was that?  I had read that Idaho had a terrible time with theft of one particular highway sign, and this was the way they dealt with the problem.  I had to make a U-turn and go back to photograph that mile marker. 

My new travel companion
2012 Ford Explorer Limited
Parked at home

Now I live in Montana, as my readers all know, and Montana has, since 2004, allowed personal use of marijuana for medical reasons.  We won’t go into all the shenanigans our state legislature has played with what has been a very popular law, but suffice it say that under certain circumstances you can get the state’s permission to grow and use cannabis for your health.  Washington State and now Oregon have both legalized all use of marijuana.  Sandwiched in between is Idaho which has steadfastly refused to give up the federal war on drugs, no matter how ineffective that may be.  So while you can legally purchase pot in a store in Spokane, 20 miles west of the Idaho state line, or grow your own in Montana, in Idaho you face prison time for having a joint in your possession.  Even so, I thought it a bit much to remove the 420 sign from the highway, and US 95 is the only highway in Idaho long enough to have a 420 sign.  (For my extremely sheltered readers, 420 is a slang term for marijuana, and if you google 420, you’ll find out all sorts of things you never needed to know—including the fact that Idaho is not alone in changing mile markers with this designation.)

I’ve reached the end of my allotted space for today’s blog, so next time I’ll talk about the rest of the trip—including how I changed my map of Nez Perce County from white to red.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Подмосковные вечера

Не слышны в саду даже шорохи,
Всё здесь замерло до утра.
Eсли б знали вы, как мне дороги
Подмосковные вечера.

In the garden, not a sigh is heard
All is gently stilled 'till the dawn
If you only knew what they mean to me,
These peaceful Moscow nights
  -- Mikhail Matusovsky, translated by blokh

For a beautiful version of the song, Moscow Nights, sung in Russian, but with an English translation on the screen, click here.  Or to hear the song the way it was introduced to American audiences at the height of the Cold War in 1962, here's the Chad Mitchell Trio's version.  Awfully gutsy of them to sing it in Russian, don't you think?  But the trio started out as a group of singers from Gonzaga University, and Spokane isn't all that far from Moscow, after all.

Sunday morning, November 15th, I got out of bed with Kevin saying, "If you're going with me, you'd better hurry up."  He wouldn't say where he was going, but I'm not one to turn down a road trip, and in this case, I suggested a few places I'd like to see, including the east side of Lake Coeur d'Alene and the town of Moscow in neighboring Idaho.  Knowing that when Kevin makes up his mind to hit the road, there's no time to lose, I forewent my morning coffee and breakfast, showered, dressed, and grabbed my camera and Idaho highway atlas, and jumped in the passenger seat of Kevin's truck.

Now don't get the idea that I did without breakfast.  I knew that Kevin would be stopping at the Conoco station in town, and that's the best place to get breakfast on a Sunday morning in Plains, Montana.  So, after eggs, hashbrowns, sausage and coffee, we headed out for Paradise, St. Regis, and Interstate 90 heading west.  The weather was warm, for mid November, and Lookout Pass was clear.  We turned off I-90 at Idaho exit 22, turning south on Idaho Highway 97 to follow along the eastern shore of Lake Coeur d'Alene.    This is not a speed way.  There are places where the suggested speed was 20 mph and Kevin said that was too fast for his F350.  He remarked repeatedly that the highway department must hate plowing this road.  We could catch glimpses of the lake, and the occasional marina, but no good photo ops presented themselves (partly because of the overcast sky and dull light), with one exception.  We passed one turn out where I could not only see the lake below clearly, but even saw a speedboat leaving an "s"-shaped wake behind it.  A perfect photo, missed.  That was the one that got away.

The Harrison Community Baptist Church
Harrison, Idaho

Near the southern end of the lake sits the town of Harrison.  With a population of 203, it was one of the larger towns we drove through.  Well, actually we stopped.  Kevin wanted to pick up some snacks at the Trading Post and I took advantage of the delay to snap some photos, including the church shown above.  It was Sunday, after all.

South of Harrison, Idaho 97 merged with Idaho 3, the road I had taken a couple of weeks earlier, and we drove on into, and ultimately through St. Maries.  There were some pictures I wanted from that town, things I had seen on my earlier trip, but not photographed, so we took the time to visit the town's rail yard.  Last trip I had seen a locomotive and a caboose bearing the name of the St. Maries River Railroad, a name I had not heard before.  We were able to find the caboose easily enough, but the locomotive eluded us.  I can't believe it had been moved as none of the rolling stock we saw appeared to have budged even an inch in the last twenty years.  But while on the prowl, we stopped long enough for me to photograph the station.  Originally built in 1908 by the Milwaukee Road, the station apparently was a great disappointment to the people of St. Maries.  If you look at the stations the Milwaukee has left in places like Missoula, Butte, and Great Falls, Montana, you will find beautiful buildings, easily among the most visually interesting pieces of architecture in those cities.  This is, I gather, what the locals expected in St. Maries.  You can see below what they got, but hey, the building was built in 1908, and the 1910 census counted 869 people in St. Maries.  Talk about Great Expectations!

The St. Maries River Railroad Station
(Formerly the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Station)
St. Maries, Idaho

Leaving St. Maries, we continued south on Idaho Highway 3, passing through Santa and Fernwood, as I had two weeks previously, but then we crossed back into Shoshone County, passing the town of Clarkia, the south-western most town in the county.  Boy do these folks have a long way to drive to get to their county seat--and they have to pass through two other counties before getting there.

A few miles further south, we crossed into Latah County, heading toward the town of Bovill and Idaho Highway 8 which would take us into Moscow.  About the time we crossed the line, Kevin noted that he was hungry.  By our watches it was almost 1:30 and breakfast had been several hours earlier.  I said I didn't know whether we'd find any place to eat in the few small towns ahead of us, but Kevin was willing to wait for Moscow.  Bovill, population 260, was founded by an Englishman named Hugh Bovill, who started ranching, then built a hotel with a store and post office.  As the town grew, according to Wikipedia, it became too wild for Hugh who took his wife and daughters to more civilized climes.  There is a building in Bovill on the National Historic Register, but I didn't see it.  I did see the building below, which I thought was a church, until I read the sign in front of the structure.  Back at home, with the internet at my disposal, I learned that the White Family Heritage Library was originally St. Joseph's Catholic Church, but the building was purchased and refurbished through gifts, largely from the family of Grace White Ryan who had grown up in Bovill.  The name on the sign made me think this might be a genealogical library, but according to the web, it is actually the Bovill branch of the Latah County Library District.

The Bovill Branch Library
Formerly St. Joseph's Catholic Church
Bovill, Idaho

Halfway between Bovill and Moscow, we passed through the town of Troy.  On the west side of town, up a steep hill from the highway, we saw a huge building that looked abandoned.  I had Kevin drive around the building, and I feel I can be excused for thinking at first that this was some sort of Roman Catholic institution.  Crosses in the United Methodist Church generally have three letters inscribed on them  "IHS," which we are taught stands for "In His Service," but actually is a stylized way of putting Jesus on the cross--a crucifix as it were, without the naked body.  And the I is often larger than the H and S, and placed between them, HIS.  Next to the ornate, two story brick building seen below was a greenish quonset hut shaped building with a monogram on the end.  HTS  It finally hit me that I was looking at a capital T, not a cross or the I of my youth, but rather the monogram of Troy High School.  And sure enough, this morning I called the Troy School District and learned that the building below was the former Junior/Senior High School, replace by a new structure in 2003.  I was also informed that the building is now owned by a private party.  Whether that party has plans for the structure, I have no idea.  With a total school population of 262 (including elementary, junior and senior high students), it's hard for to imagine how children ever filled this institution.

The Former Junior/Senior High School
Troy, Idaho

Ten miles west of Troy lies the city of Moscow, home of the University of Idaho.  Established as the territory's land-grant college in 1899 (Idaho became a state in 1890), the school has grown into a prestigious institution of higher education.  With nearly 12,000 students, the school is smaller than its cross state rivals Boise State and Idaho State (22,000 and 15,000 students respectively), but the faculty and students have an advantage in Washington State University, less than 10 miles away in Pullman, Washington.  The question that Kevin and I both had, and for which I have so far been unable to find a truly satisfactory answer, is why Moscow?  According to Wikipedia (and we all know that we can trust everything we read in that cyberpublication, right?) Moscow was chosen as home to the new institution as a sop to northern Idaho residents when Washington statehood approached in 1889.  Feeling closer to Washington than to Boise, residents of the northern panhandle tried to break off from Idaho territory and join with Washington.  "Here, if you stay with us, you can have a University," I hear the politicians saying.  And why Moscow?  Because, again according to Wikipedia, it was the second largest community in the territory at the time.  I have no way of corroborating this as the 1890 census figures for Moscow are missing.  By 1900, Moscow was, indeed, the second largest community in the new state, with just a few more residents than Lewiston, and half the population of Boise, but in 1880, Moscow counted 97 residents.  It must have grown a lot if it was second to Boise by 1889.

Be that as it may, by the time we reached Moscow, we were both hungry.  My main reason for coming to town was to take a photo of the Latah County Courthouse, but we were both so hungry that we decided to have lunch (at 2:30 local time) before seeking out the local administrative building.  Yelp suggested that most restaurants were on South Main, and I learned what a poor navigator I was in that I kept telling Kevin where I felt we needed to go, but he chose other routes.  Eventually we ended up on South Main and parked outside one of the places written up on Yelp, Maialina Pizzeria Napoletana.  Pizza's a safe choice, right?  Well, the three sheets of menu that we were given listed several offerings, none of which came at all close to Kevin's choice of meat lovers.  After consulting with our waitress, we decided to leave Maialina in search of something Kevin could eat.  Walking up one side of South Main, and back down the other, we ended up at La Casa Lopez where I had perhaps the best mole poblano I've eaten.  Unfortunately, Kevin ordered a burger which left a lot to be desired.  But then, who orders a burger in a Mexican restaurant?

By the time we finished lunch, it was getting dark.  Yes, we're moving toward winter.  Dusk at 3:30?  So be it.  We found the court house and I took my pictures.  There are many beautiful buildings in Moscow, Idaho, maybe not as colorful as St. Basil's Cathedral in that other Moscow, but still gorgeous examples of architecture.  Unfortunately, the Latah County Court House is not one of them.

We left town on US 95 heading north, then east on I-90 from Coeur d'Alene.  All told I took 65 photographs in the course of the day.  We got home around 8:30, roughly eleven hours after we left.  I didn't keep track of the miles we added to Kevin's odometer.   Because I've posted so many landscapes, I felt it best to concentrate on some of the interesting architecture we saw on this drive.  Stay tuned for more adventures on the road and off.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Donkey Riding

Willamette Steam Donkey Engine
John Mullan Park
St. Maries, Idaho
November 3rd, 2015

Were you ever off the Horn
Where it's always nice and warm
Seeing the lion and the unicorn
Riding on a donkey

This version of the song comes close to the way I learned the song a million years ago.

The line separating the states of Idaho and Montana starts at the Canadian Border just west of 116 degrees west longitude, proceeds approximately 72 miles due south, to just south of the Clark Fork River, then follows the Bitterroot Mountains ridge line for the next 355 miles and the Continental Divide for the remaining 312 miles (totaling 739 miles).  Seven main highways cross this arbitrary line, from U.S. Highway 2 in the north to U.S. Highway 20 in the south.  All but two of these roads cross high mountain passes.  In addition there are seemingly countless minor roads crossing the line, including both of the passes I drove across yesterday (11/3/15).  Most of these minor roads are back country dirt roads, most likely put in by logging companies over the years.   Both of the roads I took yesterday were paved, at least in part.  Thompson Pass, southwest of Thompson Falls, was, for years, paved on the Montana side, but not on the Idaho side.  The second pass, which I'll call the Little Joe Pass (I'm sure it has a name, but it's not marked at the site, nor on any maps that I have readily available), is paved beautifully on the Idaho side, but most of the 17 miles on the Montana side is dirt/gravel, although exceptionally well packed down.

Leaving home around 9:30, a bit later than I would have liked, I set the car's navigation system to find the Benewah County (Idaho) Garage, one of three choices the car gave me for Benewah County.  Apparently, there are more than one such garages, because while I was trying to get to St. Maries, when I drove into that town, the navigation system told me I had many more miles to go before I reached the garage.  This was not the only time the nav system failed me.  Undoubtedly because most people prefer driving on the Interstate Highway System, the car tried to guide me east to Paradise, then south to St. Regis and Interstate 90.  This was not the way I had planned, so instead I headed west to Thompson Falls, then south and west across Thompson Pass and into Idaho.  I drove a good five miles west on Highway 200 before the car relented and routed me through Thompson Falls.  But even then, half-way up Prospect Creek, the car tried to get me to turn left and take a very rough dirt road up and over the mountains into Wallace, Idaho, instead of staying on the paved road I had chosen.  Twice more along the way, the car tried to get me into Wallace, when I was headed instead for Kingston, Idaho where I would finally meet up with the Interstate.  Now I know that Wallace is "The Center of the Universe" and at least until the 1980s the home of a well-known bordello, but I had no need to visit either on this trip, so I continually ignored the car's suggestions and followed the Coeur d'Alene River to Kingston, whence I hit I-90 and headed west into Kootenai County and the exit for Idaho Highway 3.

The impetus for this trip was to visit Benewah County, the county in North Idaho I knew the least.  In point of fact, while I had driven across the county twice (once north to south and once south to north on different highways), I had never actually stopped and gotten out of the car in that jurisdiction.  I also hoped to drive home along the St. Joe River, and I had no idea how long any of this would take, so I set my sights on the Benewah County line and didn't stop anywhere along the Coeur d'Alene, beautiful in its fall coloring, to take pictures.  Once off I-90, however, I stopped to study (and photograph) the information sign for the White Pine Scenic Byway, AKA Idaho Highways 3 and 6, which I would be driving for the next several hours.

I seem to have caught their attention
Rose Lake Elk Ranch
Rose Lake, Idaho
November 3rd, 2015

Almost immediately after getting back on Highway 3, I passed a field filled with elk.  I did not realize, at the time, that this was a commercial elk ranch.  Indeed, the elk filled the fields the way cattle normally do, and apparently that is intentional.  While I do not approve of the commercial raising of these majestic animals, you can read more about the ranch on their web site.

A few miles further south, I pulled into a marked Scenic Turnout and admired (and photographed) the scene to the west, including what looked to be several miles of horse fencing (are we suddenly in Kentucky?), much grassland, water and mountains on the western horizon.

Kootenai County Ranch Land
Eastern Kootenai County, Idaho
November 3rd, 2015

Back on Highway 3, I first entered the Coeur d'Alene Indian Reservation, then Benewah County.  As is the case for so many native reservations, the Coeur d'Alene Tribe's land is now only a fraction of their aboriginal claims, and is located in southern Kootenai and western Benewah Counties.  Roughly half of Benewah County is within the reservation, but only 9% of the County's population claims to be Native.  The town of Plummer is the home of the tribal headquarters.  The tribe also operates a casino at Worley, north of Plummer in Kootenai County.  In 1991, the tribe sued the State of Idaho over ownership of Lake Coeur d'Alene, a trial that eventually reached the U.S. Supreme Court which dismissed the suit citing the Eleventh Amendment.  A subsequent suit against the state was initiated by the U.S. government, acting as trustee of Indian lands.  This time, the Supreme Court ruled against the state of Idaho.  While at the time, there was much controversy and, yes, fear, as to what the ruling would mean, in practice what has happened is that the Tribe has been instrumental in cleaning up the lake and the area rivers of mining waste from the Silver Valley.

After stopping for lunch in St. Maries, where I duly photographed the County Court House, I headed west on Idaho Highway 5 to Plummer, passing through Heyburn State Park, ostensibly the oldest state park in the Pacific Northwest.  Land taken, need I say, from the Coeur d'Alene Tribe.  There were a good many turnouts on the seventeen mile drive where I could stop and admire the scenery, but my photographs are all hampered by the trees that line the highway.  Or, I suppose you could say, the pictures are enhanced by the trees.

The Saint Joe River connecting Chatcolet Lake and Round Lake
Heyburn State Park, Idaho
November 3rd, 2015

Once in Plummer, I headed south on U.S. Highway 95, which runs parallel to the Idaho/Washington State Line, passing by the town of Sanders (2 miles off the highway to the east), and through the town of Tensed.  I didn't have a chance (or didn't take the time) to ask a native if the town's name is one syllable or two.  South of Tensed, I passed De Smet, site of the Jesuit mission built after the Tribe left the area around Cataldo, where the same Jesuits who built St. Mary's and St. Ignatius Missions in Montana built the first mission in what is now Idaho.  (According to Wikipedia, Tensed started out as De Smet, but because of the nearby mission, which had its own post office, the town changed its name to Temsed--De Smet backwards--which the Post Office then mispelled.)  To the west, along the Washington State line, is Mary Minerva McCroskey State Park, Idaho's second largest.  This large section of Palouse was acquired and set aside by one man, Virgil T. McCroskey, who gave the land to the State of Idaho in 1955.  The State, however, chose to look this gift horse in the mouth, figuring that no one in his right mind would want to travel to remote northern Idaho (it was another twenty years before the state improved U.S. 95 to the point where it wasn't such a challenge to reach the area from the more populous southern part of the state).  Accordingly, the State accepted the gift only with the provision that Mr. McCroskey would single-handedly maintain the property, at his own expense, for the next fifteen years.  McCroskey, then 78 years old, agreed, and fulfilled his commitment, dying just weeks after the fifteen year period had passed.

Shortly after passing the road leading to McCroskey State Park, I passed three signs mounted on a single post.  The first announced that I was now leaving the Coeur d'Alene Reservation.  Below that was the sign saying that I was now entering Latah County, and below that, a sign warning that "Zoned County Bldg. Permits" were required, presumably in Latah County.  Not planning on doing any construction, I ignored this last notice, and continued south to the town of Potlatch, a company town built by Weyerhauser's Potlatch Lumber Company in 1905.  At its heyday, the mill at Potlatch was the largest white pine lumber mill in the world.  I photographed a couple of large buildings, one of which I have not been able to identify, the second of which has a sign out front stating that the building is the Town Hall for the city.  I also photographed the station for the Washington, Idaho and Montana Railway, a rail line that despite its name, apparently never reached Montana.

Everything an Ivy-League Man Needs
Princeton, Idaho
November 3rd, 2015

Today, Potlatch is mostly a bedroom community for nearby Moscow, Idaho and Pullman, Washington, homes respectively of The University of Idaho and Washington State University.  When the town, and more importantly the railroad, was first built, the nearby stations were given the names of Ivy League Colleges, and shortly after turning north on Idaho Highway 6, I passed through Princeton, and five miles later, Harvard.  I'm not sure where Yale, Cornell and Purdue are (or more likely, were).  North of Harvard, I re-entered Benewah County, passing through the town of Emida, past another sign pointing, this time westward, to Sanders, and took a side trip to Santa and Fernwood.  Not seeing Mary Hartman, and not wanting to wait around for the talk show, I turned around short of the Shoshone County line, and headed back to St. Maries.  From there, I turned east onto Idaho 50, and followed the St. Joe River through a spectacular mountain valley, until the road turned north and climbed the Bitterroot Mountains, crossing into Montana 88 miles east of St. Maries.  At the pass, as noted above, the pavement ended, and most of the next seventeen miles were on hard packed dirt.  The best photo I didn't get was of the animal leading me down the mountain for quite a way.  He was easily taller than my car, and sported a very respectable rack of antlers.  I had no intention of scaring him (or more likely angering him), so I slowed down and followed at a respectful distance until he found a place to leave the roadbed.  It was too dark by this time to get a good look, let alone a photograph, and I can't say for sure, but there's only one animal that large in this part of the world.  Had to be a bull moose.  Need I say that my nav system did not like this route at all, and refused to give me an accurate reading of how much further I had to go--since I wasn't following the prescribed route.

But I was able to get some spectacular photos along the St. Joe, including the scene below which I captured shortly after crossing from Benewah into Shoshone County,   Coming round a bend, I saw ahead a blaze of color coming down out of a very cloudy sky.  I stopped to grab that partial rainbow, and a few miles later, stopped again to get this image of a double rainbow, almost complete.  I guess there's double the luck there.

Double the Luck
Southwestern Shoshone County, Idaho
November 3rd, 2015

I arrived home at 7 p.m., almost ten hours after leaving.  I drove approximately 400 miles, and shot 78 photographs.  I saw a lot of beautiful country, most of it new to me, and thoroughly enjoyed myself.  The one thing I didn't do, was stop to hunt for geocaches.  I can eat up a lot of time doing that, and it was important to me that this be a day-trip only, not a several day trip.  This is something, as my readers know, I dearly love.  I need to find a way to afford more of these trips.